Negro Leagues Baseball, A to Z
— Guest Submission by Philip A. Ross
A is for Andrew, Rube Foster’s first name.
He started the league that organized the first black game.
B is for Cool Papa Bell, the speedster of which you’ve heard.
Even on an intentional walk he could wind up on third.
C is for Oscar Charleston, he played centerfield then first base.
Wherever he played, he was always an ace.
D is for Leon Day, whose strong right arm could fire the ball.
His outstanding career got him elected to the Hall.
E is for Luke Easter, as a hitter he was elite.
He would hit blasts out of the park and onto the street.
F is for Willie Foster, whose left arm threw smoke.
It would have been easier for the batter to use a fork to drink Coke.
G is for Josh Gibson, he hit home runs prodigious.
When he got up to bat, the pitchers got religious.
H is for the Homestead Grays, a Pittsburgh team under Cumberland Posey.
Gus Greenlee’s Crawfords were their cross-town rivals. Relations weren’t always rosy.
I is for Monte Irvin, with the Newark Eagles he got his start playing ball.
He went to the “show” now he’s in the Hall.
J is for J.L. Wilkinson of the Monarchs, he was the president.
Kansas City was his home. There he was a resident.
K is for Henry Kimbro, a five tool player by trade.
On the field he made his mark in each game that he played.
L is for Buck Leonard, his first name was Walter.
This power hitting first baseman rarely did falter.
M is for Lefty Mathis, he had a pick off move that couldn’t be beat.
If you got to first, glue the base to your feet.
N is for all of the Negro Leagues, their seasons weren’t very long.
But they kept the fires burning ’til Jackie came along.
O is for Buck O’Neil, he played the game with grace and style.
In his heart and on his face, he always wore a smile.
P is for Spot Poles, in the outfield many he did rob.
A great all around player he was called the “black Ty Cobb.”
Q is for Quincy Trouppe, who was finely tuned on all gears.
He just felt he was born too soon, by twenty years.
R is for Double Day Radcliffe, pitcher and catcher supreme.
The only player anywhere to play both positions on all star teams.
S is for Satchel, Leroy Paige never got older.
Remember his words, “Don’t look over your shoulder.”
T is for the Taylor brothers: Ben, Candy Jim, Steel Arm Johnny and CI.
Their legacy and standard is still riding high.
U is for the Brooklyn Uniques, a foundation team from yesteryear.
We stand on their shoulders so let’s give them a cheer.
V is for Armando Vasquez, the outfielder who hit with power.
He could get up and slug the ball, any day, any hour.
W is for Smokey Joe Williams, a giant of a man on the mound.
When opponents saw him warm up, they wanted to turn around.
X marks the spot of the Negro League Museum in KC at 18th and Vine.
On your trip to see the Royals stop in you’ll have a great time.
Y is for Bill Yancey, he played second, third and shortstop.
He could pivot and throw and catch the short hop.
Z is for Jim Zapp, after the Navy he joined the Elite Giants of Baltimore.
This big hit slugger was hard to ignore.
So there’s the poem that scratches the surface.
I gave it some thought and a great deal of purpose.
With thanks to the players who played through the strife,
You made baseball better and enriched my life.
— Philip A. Ross is a negro leagues baseball historian and speaker. He is a retired New York City public school teacher.
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Episode #10 – League of Fans’ Sports Forum podcast: An Issues Discussion With Paul Dolan – Dolan is the Cleveland Indians Owner and CEO. He discusses the use of Native American names and logos by sports teams and the decisions to drop the Chief Wahoo logo and the upcoming change to the team name. Other baseball topics include health and safety, possible MLB rule changes and youth participation in the sport.
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League of Fans is a sports reform project founded by Ralph Nader to fight for the higher principles of justice, fair play, equal opportunity and civil rights in sports; and to encourage safety and civic responsibility in sports industry and culture.
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